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Phantom Blood is the first part in the Shonen epic that is Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. When you hear Jojo most people either think of this arc or part three:Stardust Crusaders. Though if your a decent human being you should at least also remember Battle Tendency because it's where Joesph Jostar is originally from and inspired a few Street Fighter characters. This and to an extent Battle Tendency tend to be old shame for the author and can best be described as Fist of The North Star if it was glam. So lets look see if this actually worth it or do I need to start drinking bleach to forget(though I might do that later when I'm bored).
The story here is pretty simple being divided into three parts each ending with some one biting it and manly tears being shed. The in between times are filled with hamminess and diabolical plans. It is a pretty standard good vs evil plot with no real twists outside of the villain's refusal to just die. The fighting technique is the Ripple which again not to unique as it is just punching people while shouting silly things. It doesn't get much creative use as it will in the next arc outside of wine darts.
Once we get to the final part the plot gets silly ,events just sort of start happening and I'm not quite sure why. There is also this malarkey about vampires that is dropped after this part of the manga. It's there to justify people following Dio,instead of just raw charisma like later story arcs. Three new characters show up to join Jojo and barley contribute to the plot. Hell one has a bigger part in Battle Tendency and he hardly did anything in this story. Back in the eighties maybe this was fine but now it just feels run of the mill.
So what saves this manga from the ignore list,that is style. The book just oozes it from every pore and everyone is hammy. The guys are manly,their fighting styles flashy,and it's just having a good time. Everything is done in big broad strokes and it takes the substandard elements and makes them tolerable. It's also fairly short and I mean that in the nicest way possible. The pacing is very tight and none of the fights get drawn out. The bulk of which happens in the last part letting the first two sections build up Dio and Jojo's relationship.
There is something to be said for the Johnathon(JoJo)/Dio relationship and that is that it is pretty good. They are polar opposites in every way and their schoolboy rivalry evolves into respect/loathing for each other. However Jojo is a gentleman of the highest caliber and that's about it. You still feel for Jojo but he's just not that interesting outside of his archeology major which serves more as a plot mover than anything else. He did start the trend of the Jostars being incredibly bright people,having that noble spirit,which would later add to the leads rather than define them. He also is responsible for Joesph,who I do not have a crush on,in that Joesph's personality is meant to be as far from Johnathan's as possible
Dio is a little more tragic in a way. He essentially created his own rival in Jojo and is so blinded by power that he doesn't realize that he's become like or even worse than his despised father. He could make a good argument for either side of the nature vs nurture argument. Was he evil from birth or did his poor upbringing ruin any chance of a good life even after he begins living with the Jostars. It adds some depth to the character that Johnathon lacks.
The rest of the cast is mostly manly men being manly except for Erina who gets to be the medic to Jojo's heavy and has a really great supporting role. She doesn't do much but is still enjoyable. Also there is Robert E.O Speedwagon who is a fun example of captain obvious because I imagine his just shouting all of his lines. Plus he gets a sweet hat from Jojo's mentor to replace his already pretty cool razor blade hat. Plus while not getting much to do here,his eventual fortune is a constant help to the Jostars.
Moving on to some talk about art: it's okay. This was my second time reading this and really the art is not as bad as I remember. Everyone has bodies chiseled in the image of the gods and all the men are huge. It's very dark to look at which adds to the atmosphere and the gore is fairly intense though nothing worse than something from Fist of The North Star. We do get the authors love for SFX words as they litter every page but not in a way that clutters it up.
In the end this is really not that bad a manga,it just hasn't aged that well and is weak compared to some later parts of the series.Though if you need to grow a beard read this, you'll be hairier than a bear in no time. It's still better than Stardust Crusaders and that has to count for something. Till next time: Stay Positive.
Next Week:Stardust Crusaders OVA's